Governments take steps towards a nuclear-free world

October 24, 2011

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(AP/Jason DeCrow)
Outside the UN headquarters in New York, protesters against nuclear proliferation recall the horrors of WWII.

As the world prepares to welcome its seven billionth citizen next week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the need to achieve a future in which the human family is free of the threat of nuclear weapons. As he said this month in New York, “We know that the world of tomorrow is shaped by the decisions we make today. A world free of nuclear weapons is a concrete possibility.” He added, “Let us realize that dream so that seven billion people can live in peace and security.”

Global politics in the next year will determine how attainable this vision really is.

Last Friday, the United Nations, the U.S., Russia and Britain announced the first steps to convening what is certain to be a controversial conference in 2012 on turning the Middle East into a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. An appointed “facilitator” will have the difficult task of consulting outlier states in the region, such as Israel and Iran, ahead of the conference.

Then, there's the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Ratified by about 155 states, it can’t go into effect because nuclear powers like the U. S. and China won’t sign on. The Obama administration affirmed its intention to deliver the treaty for ratification to the U.S. Senate but hasn't said when.

And next May, Chicago will host both the G8 and NATO summits. Last month, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen outlined goals for the NATO conference, including what he calls the “appropriate mix of capabilities - conventional, nuclear and missile defense" - especially for former Soviet Union States like Poland and Romania.

Kevin Martin joins us to talk about the state of the nuclear non-proliferation movement. He’s executive director of Peace Action in Washington D.C., a group that follows non-proliferation issues and attempts to develop citizen engagement toward a nuclear-free world.